The Professional Bull Riders will welcome fans to full capacity at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., when it holds the Unleash The Beast First Premier Bank/Premier Bankcard Invitational from April 9-11. Hosting 9,000 fans for the event, PBR will become the first pro sports organization to allow spectators at full capacity in an indoor facility—and without a mask mandate. Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers announced Wednesday that they will not restrict attendance at Globe Life Field, which has a retractable roof, but will require fans to wear face coverings.
Since the pandemic began, PBR has hosted more than 131,000 fans at various events, including selling 4,200 tickets at Sanford Premier Center for the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge from July 10-12, just three months after the country began locking down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re excited to welcome bull riding back to Sioux Falls,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said. “Last summer, PBR proved that we can hold safe and responsible events, and they chose South Dakota for the first major sporting event with fans in the stands in the country. We’re building on the success of that event and proving that South Dakota is a national destination for rodeo.”
ASM Global, which manages Denny Sanford Premier Center, will activate its “venue shield” protocol, aimed at reducing physical touch points and increasing venue sanitation. The event will also have mobile ticketing instead of traditional printed tickets, contactless concessions with prepackaged food, temperature testing and CDC screenings, and COVID-19 testing for all staff and athletes.
But spectators won’t be required to cover their faces. Although South Dakota is one of 16 states without a statewide mask mandate, the state’s health department recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
The Sioux Falls city council, however, voted not to extend the existing mask mandate on Tuesday, meaning the policy will expire on Saturday. Minnehaha County, where Sioux Falls is located, leads the state in COVID-19 cases with over 28,000 and 335 deaths, more than double the caseload in the next closest county, Pennington County, which has had 13,026.
The South Dakota Department of Health also announced today that two cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 have been detected in the state, although neither patient was hospitalized and both patients have recovered.
“One of the key milestones for our sport’s safe and responsible return was when fans came back into the arena in Sioux Falls last July through a forward-thinking partnership with ASM Global, the City of Sioux Falls and Gov. Kristi Noem,” said Sean Gleason, Commissioner and CEO of PBR. “We are very excited to return to Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls as we continue to move forward.”
Ticket prices for the three-day event range from $15 to $110.